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State sees largest spike in cases

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned the nation Monday that the worst is yet to come in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want Americans to understand. This week, it’s going to get bad and we really need to come together as a nation,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re finding out that a lot of people think that this can’t happen to them.”

The State of Indiana saw the largest spike in the number of presumptive positive cases, jumping from 259 to 365 in a single day. The number of reported tests have also increased, with nearly 1,000 more tests reported Tuesday than on Monday.

Grant County Health Officer William David Moore said he believes the rapid increase in presumptive positive cases is due in part to the virus spreading and also to the amount of tests that have now become available.

While Grant County remains at three presumptive positive cases, having identified two cases since the first case on Friday, Moore said that the peak is coming.

“We know it’s going to happen, and we’re trying to be prepared for when it hits,” Moore said.

Moore said that healthcare systems across the nation, including Grant County, are experiencing shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and will eventually have to tackle the pandemic as those on the front lines are infected as well.

“I think the entire system will be moving people around to where they’re most needed,” Moore said.

Marion General Hospital (MGH) representative Sarah Evans said the hospital is prepared to take care of the community, stating that the increase in positive cases applied mainly to Marion County and surrounding areas.

“We are continuing to be able to meet our demands on a daily basis and there are shortages of PPE and we’re exploring opportunities to continue to utilize our vendors and acquire what’s needed, but right now we’re in an OK position,” Evans said.

According to Evans, MGH has established a call center to help streamline the screening process and can direct patients to various facilities.

Evans said that in order to concentrate their efforts, MGH has reduced the number of elective surgeries last week and reduced the number of lab and radiology locations today, redeploying staff throughout the hospital.

“Were cautiously optimistic as to being in a position in a county that only, as of today, has three presumptive positive cases,” Evans said.

Though Evans said the hospital is “in an okay position” in terms of its PPE supply, Grant County Emergency Management Director Bob Jackson said in his daily briefing that PPE remains “critically low for our healthcare workers and first responders, supplies being released from the national stockpiles are not keeping up with local demand.”

Moore said healthcare employees especially need masks, gowns and ventilators.

Evans declined to disclose the number of ventilators MGH has, stating that they can be used in a number of situations. She did, however, state that MGH has the proper equipment to care for the community’s needs.

While local organizations working to secure proper supplies to help stop the spread of the virus, they are also trying to get funding. Officials like Jackson and Moore said that they are tracking their spending in hopes of turning that information over to state and federal agencies for reimbursements.

Should the county experience a large surge in presumptive positive cases, Moore said local healthcare systems will look into using other facilities for overflow, designating patients with certain needs to specific locations.

Though Gov. Eric J. Holcomb issued an order mandating Hoosiers stay home unless necessary, Moore said policing people who don’t comply with the order will be a secondary priority, warning that law enforcement agencies could also become overwhelmed.

“Don’t tire our first responders … Let’s try to work together as a community,” Moore said.

Locals supply masks during PPE shortage

As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spreads, the demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical professionals and first responders is increasing.

“There is a critical shortage of PPE for our healthcare workers and first responders,” Bob Jackson, Grant County Emergency Management Agency director, said.

Aware of the shortage of PPE, Grant County community members have moved to action.

Gas City resident and former nurse Tami Corbin began sewing masks at her home on Sunday and said she would continue as long as there is a need.

“My heart was hurting for all of the healthcare professionals that I’m sure are working under some extreme situations where they didn’t have the proper equipment,” Corbin said. “We thought that might be something we could do in a time of crisis to help others, in at least a small way.”

Corbin, her daughter and her 8-year-old granddaughter have made more than 60 masks in three days so far.

Corbin said she posted on Facebook to ask her friends if they knew where there was a need in Grant County and was told to send them to Trans Care Ambulance.

“I said I will just keep sewing, and wherever the need is, let them go there,” Corbin said.

According to Corbin, the homemade cloth masks are not nearly as efficient as the N95 respirator masks that medical professionals should be using, but in a time of crisis, these masks are better than nothing.

“This is a last resort. If you don’t have access to (PPE), you can use this,” Corbin said. “I hope they don’t have to use these masks and that they have the proper equipment to protect themselves from the virus.”

While being stuck in her home, Corbin said she has felt helpless.

“What can you do?” Corbin said. “This is our little bit of trying to make a difference during the crisis.”

Corbin said she is offering more than physical protection for medical professionals.

“As I’ve been sewing these, I’ve been praying for God to protect all of our healthcare workers and those people that are at risk,” Corbin said. “I pray while I make the masks that God will protect those that are in harm’s way.”

Marion resident Rachel Terry began making masks on Saturday for her best friend, who works as a nurse manager for a hospice in Florida.

“On Friday, she found out she could not order through her supplier any more masks for her nurses. They are in and out of about 180 houses a day,” Terry said. “When she has all that she needs, I will find somewhere else to donate them.”

Terry and her 9-year-old daughter have sent 36 masks to Florida so far.

Terry said she uses two layers of tightly woven cotton to make the masks.

“It’s not anywhere near the kind of protection they need, but it’s better than nothing,” Terry said. “I don’t want her to go out and be exposed and bring it home to her kids. Anything I can do to make her safer and make the nurses she works with safer, I am absolutely glad to do it.”

Pat Mitchell, the owner of Ride & Leather in Marion, and his team are using their space downtown to make masks for emergency responders.

“We got concerned when we started hearing about the lack of masks availability,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s team made 40 masks Monday and another 60 on Tuesday, using polyester dust fabric typically used on furniture.

“It’s identical to some of the components in the N95 mask,” Mitchell said. “It’s breathable and highly water-resistant.”

Mitchell posted a video on Facebook showing how to make a mask using fabric and a food sealer many people have in their homes.

“More people have those food sealers than sewing machines,” Mitchell said.

According to Marion General Hospital (MGH) representative Sarah Evans, Indiana Wesleyan University also donated PPE to MGH, including gowns and masks.

Jackson said the EMA appreciates the action from the community.

“I think that will help us get through, hopefully supplies are coming. It will certainly help us bridge the gap,” Jackson said. “One of the things Grant County does best is certainly when the chips are down, we all pull together and it’s much appreciated.”

For more information on how to help with the PPE shortage, email asimmons@grantcounty.net.

High school football
Ole Miss tabs Buresh as next football coach

Mississinewa High School has its new varsity football coach, and it’s someone who has a little familiarity with the program and Grant County.

Kyle Buresh, a LaPorte, Indiana-native and 2011 graduate of Franklin College, was approved by the Mississinewa school board Monday night to succeed Curt Funk as the Indians next head coach.

Though his time in Grant County was brief, Buresh previously served as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator for Indiana Wesleyan’s inaugural season in 2018. Most recently he coached the wide receivers at Denison University (Granville, Ohio) last fall.

All of Buresh’s prior coaching experience has come at the collegiate level, but he’s looking forward to the challenge of directing the football program at Mississinewa.

“Being able to accept the position is a different opportunity for me that will be challenging,” Buresh said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “But also to be a part of a phenomenal football program that has had a lot of success, I’m really excited to build off that success and to help work to take things to the next level.

“I’m a little bit familiar with Grant County after living there for a year being at IWU, enjoyed the area and it’s a phenomenal opportunity for me and my family.”

Buresh was one of 15 applicants for the position, according to Mississinewa Athletic Director Chanse Young. After narrowing the list to six, then to two, Young said Buresh was able to distinguish himself as the candidate of choice to the hiring committee for different reasons.

“I think we felt like we had really good candidates and we felt like everybody we interviewed did a really good job,” Young said. “I think what pushed coach over the top of everybody else was his commitment to developing a whole person, not just football players.

“I think just that idea of building the whole person, his experience at the college level having coached various position on each side of the ball in successful programs were some things that helped him jump out to the committee,” Young added. “Overall what really set him apart for us was just his demeanor and again his philosophy of building that total person or total player both on and off the field.”

Buresh said he was using Tuesday as an opportunity to reach out to Mississinewa’s existing coaching staff just to get to know them better. One thing Buresh pointed out as a positive of the coronavirus pandemic is it is affording him the time to make calls and get to know who his potential assistant coaches might be.

The current situation is obviously less than ideal for a new head coach, but Buresh said he’ll also soon start reaching out to Ole Miss’ returning players, though there is no certainty when he’ll be able to finally meet them face to face.

“It is what it is. The bigger difficult situation right now is just people being healthy. You’ve got to keep it in perspective,” Buresh said. “I think the country is doing what is best for everyone involved. That’s bigger than football and bigger than anything right now.

“It’s a challenge but everybody is facing some sort of challenge with their job and the way that they’re living their life right now,” he continued. “It’s a challenge for me as the head football coach at Mississinewa but it’s obviously a challenge for everybody in their daily lives. You’ve just got to take it, make the best of it and run with it, do the best you can.”

Most of Buresh’s previous coaching experience has come on the offensive side of the football, but he interned as a linebacker coach at his alma mater and was a three-time Academic All-Conference defensive back in his playing days at Franklin.

When asked about his coaching philosophy, Buresh’s response incorporated being flexible.

“That’s still to be determined as far as schematically,” he said. “At the end of the day we have to put our players in the best situation to be successful. You can’t do that without knowing what they can do.

“I’ve got to be able to know the kids personally first, get to know them and let them know how much I care about them and how I want them to go about their business,” Buresh added. “Develop relationships first and foremost then see what they can do physically as well, then tailor what we’re going to do offensively, defensively to the strengths of our players.”

ISDH reports 12 Hoosier deaths, 365 confirmed COVID-19 cases

ISDH reports 12 Hoosier deaths, 365 confirmed COVID-19 cases

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) Tuesday reported 107 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing to 365 the number of Hoosiers diagnosed through ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private laboratories. Twelve Hoosiers have died.

A total of 2,931 tests have been reported to ISDH to date, up from 1,960 on Monday.

The complete list of counties with cases is included in the ISDH COVID-19 dashboard at www.coronavirus.in.gov.

Leaders holding community update

Grant County leaders will hold a press conference and community update on COVID-19 today, March 25, at noon on WSOT TV 27 and its cable affiliates. The video will also be made available for online distribution. WSOT TV 27 will then rebroadcast it at 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and on Sunday, March 29 at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

GCSD offering online form to begin report process

The Grant County Sheriff’s Department now providing an online way for residents to begin the process of filing a police report without having to send an officer to the residence at www.bit.ly/GCSDreport. Through this new tool residents have the ability to submit a report and within 24 hours receive a call or email from a deputy.

Please note this is not a replacement for calling 911 for life-threatening or public safet emergencies.

Prosecution requests Carmack's change of venue request be denied

The prosecution for the state of Indiana is requesting Amanda Dawn Carmack’s motion for a change of venue for her upcoming jury trial be denied.

Carmack’s lawyer David M. Payne filed a motion for a change of venue on March 10, claiming Carmack is unable to receive a fair trial in Grant County because of “Public hostility against the Defendant; Public outrage over the offense; Prejudicial news reporting or editorializing which castigates the defendant; (and) A social media (internet) petition requesting that the State seek the death penalty.”

Carmack is facing charges of murder, neglect of a dependent resulting in death, domestic battery death to a person under 14 and strangulation in connection with the death of 10-year-old Skylea Carmack of Gas City.

In a March 19 objection and response to the change of venue motion, Grant County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott J. Hunt said Indiana law states any request for a change of venue should be filed within 30 days of the initial hearing. Since Carmack’s request came 153 days past the deadline, Hunt argued the request should be denied.

Payne stated in his motion that while he is aware the request for venue change comes well after the 30-day limit, Carmack’s defense was not made aware of an online Change.org petition requesting Prosecutor Rodney Faulk seek the death penalty in the case until Feb. 17. The petition has more than 3,100 signatures, and Payne stated knowledge of the petition changed the defense’s view on whether a fair trial was possible in Grant County.

Hunt said in his response that the law does allow a change of venue to be requested if new discovery comes to light and certain requirements are met, but he claims Carmack’s defense did not meet those requirements.

The response also states Carmack’s request does not allege specific facts that would rise to the level of justifying a change in venue request and “relies upon bald assertions” of public hostility and outrage.

Payne asserted in a memorandum to the court that he believed many of the 3,162 people who have signed the Change.org petition were Grant County residents, but Hunt stated the petition is located on a national website with no evidence detailing where those who have signed the petition are from.

An accompanying affidavit from John Kauffman, an investigator with the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office, states it appears the petition was first made available on Sept. 7, 2019 and has been available every day since then to be viewed and signed by the public. Most of the signatures appear to have been added during September 2019, Kauffman stated, and it also appeared that “one or more persons were able to sign the Petition more than one time.”

“While Defendant’s concern over pretrial publicity bears some level of merit, Defendant utterly fails to explain why this concern, through reasonable due diligence, could not have been brought to this Court’s attention within the thirty days prescribed by [the law],” Hunt states in the response. “...Due diligence is not waiting close to six months to file for change of venue for a matter that, based upon the Defendant’s Verified Motion, was so publicized and widespread as to cause the type of prejudicial pretrial publicity necessary to sustain such a request.”

Hunt also claims the possibility of prejudice and bias is not sufficient for a change of venue request and the defense “must show both the existence of prejudicial pretrial publicity and the inability of the jurors to set aside preconceived notions of guilt.”

“In essence, Defendant is asking this Court to do exactly what the prevailing case law prohibits and that is to consider and conflate possible prejudice with that of actual and widespread prejudice,” the response states.

A hearing regarding the defense’s motion for a change of venue is scheduled for May 13 at 9 a.m. in Grant County Circuit Court before Judge Mark E. Spitzer. Carmack’s jury trial is currently scheduled for June 29 at 9 a.m. in Circuit Court.